There are a few ways the travel insurance and Medicare interact. The first is through an international arrangement called a "Reciprocal Health Care Agreement" (RHCA). The Australian government has a deal with a number of countries around the world where Australian citizens can get free healthcare, and in return their citizens get free treatment in Australia. The RHCA is handled by Medicare, so if you present to a public hospital in one of these countries, you should be able to get free treatment. Not all hospitals are great with the bureaucracy, so you may have to explain it clearly to a few people and show your passport before they work out that you're entitled to free care.
The second way Medicare and travel insurance interact is about getting treatment when you get home. Sometimes, when you're injured or ill overseas, we'll bring you home quickly so that you can get treatment in Australia. Particularly if you're in countries where the medical care is either very poor or very expensive, we're likely to bring you home for full proper treatment and rehab. We can also arrange admission for you at your local public hospital. The important bit here is that once you're back in Australia, your cover for medical expenses ends and your treatment is taken over by Medicare.
Travel insurance provides cover for other non-medical stuff, as per the policy. But can also cover incidental medical costs that aren't covered under the RHCA. Mostly the RHCAs cover hospital inpatient costs, so you may have to pay for other costs, such as ambulances, medication, rehabilitation and similar things. Assuming your claim is covered, we can cover those costs for you when the treatment it provided by a registered medical Professional. The RHCA is slightly different with every country, so what you end up needing to pay for will vary.
All the usual the terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions apply, but there are some specific restrictions relating to RHCA countries. Most importantly, if you're in a position to choose whether you attend a public or private hospital, you must choose a public one. We may refuse to cover your medical expenses from a private hospital under some circumstances, so if you're feeling unwell and need medical treatment, give our emergency assistance team a call, and they can direct you to a nearby public hospital.
Currently Belgium, Finland, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Republic of Ireland, Slovenia, Sweden and the United Kingdom. For an updated list please check the Australian government's Department of Human Services website.
The most obvious reason is that you need travel insurance to cover all the non-medical stuff. Your luggage items, your additional or cancellation costs, and other benefits. However, there maybe also be some small amount of medical expenses, as many RHCAs don’t cover pharmacy costs, physiotherapy and similar outpatient expenses. Also, in a terrible scenario, an ambulance may take you to a private hospital if it’s the closest facility, in which case you may end up with a medical bill despite the RHCA.
This is a brief summary of cover only and does not include the full terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions. Read the PDS before purchasing.